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Publisher Profile: Yolandi Farham

by | May 12, 2015 | Higher Education

If you’re interested in the publishing industry or simply want to have a closer look at Oxford University Press Southern Africa – look no further than our recurring Publisher Profile feature. Publisher Profiles are brief Q & A sessions with our Publishers which aim to give insight into the mechanics of the Publishing industry, shed light on what it takes to be an Oxford University Press Southern Africa publisher, and give expert advice to anybody interested in joining the world of Higher Education publishing in South Africa.


Yolandi Farham (TVET Publisher, Oxford University Press Southern Africa)












1. How did you find yourself following a career in publishing?

From a very young age I absolutely loved books, reading and teaching. While many of my friends were planning on becoming ballerinas I was building my library and teaching a classroom of stuffed bears. As I grew older this love of teaching and books did not diminish and my studies in languages, teaching languages and eventually compiling courses for a college led me to put it all together and to start my career in textbook publishing.

2. Describe your work day, what does your job entail?

Basically my job entails spotting publishing opportunities and then making those opportunities happen. We are entering a new market, so at the moment I am a ‘jack of all trades’. One day I might be doing research, on another I may meet authors and assist editors or the typesetters. My days are never the same and that is what I love most about it.

3. What key traits do you think make a great Publisher?

I think a great Publisher is someone who can listen and respond appropriately to what the market requires. Not only the lecturers, but the students and the industry as a whole. And, of course, publishers should be passionate about quality education. I don’t think you can make a really good book without being passionate about it and the positive effect it will have on the people who read it.

4. What is the biggest challenge you would say in being a good Publisher?

Keeping your eye on the prize. By that I mean that it is often easy to get side tracked by the details and the little issues you have to address on a daily basis and the frustrations that sometimes come with that, but if you can keep the end result in mind it makes these little things easier.

5. Books vs eBooks? What is your opinion?

In my personal capacity I like printed books, I like the smell of a new book and turning the actual pages. I am also still very ‘old-school’ in that I still prefer actual CD’s and vinyl to MP3’s. In my professional capacity, however, I believe that colleges, lecturers and students should have a choice in how they teach and how they learn depending on the resources they have available to them. There is no point in supplying eBooks to a college that has no way for students to access these books. The main aim of any teaching resource should be learning, whether that is facilitated by a textbook or eBook doesn’t really matter as long as it enhances the learning experience. Of course, the main advantage of eBooks is their interactivity, students can click on links to videos or articles that can greatly enhance their learning experience.

6. Is there anything you would like to say to any aspiring authors considering entering the educational publishing industry?

Do proper research before you choose a publisher. Make sure that the publisher you choose will have your best interest at heart and will treat you and your material with the passion and respect that you treat your own work. You need to be able to trust your publisher.

7. What book project experience did you enjoy most, and why?

The project I am currently working on is a highlight for me. Having the opportunity to build a brand from scratch and to put my own stamp on it is really exciting.

8. In your opinion, what value does a Publisher bring to the process of publishing a good book?

Experience. Publishers know what works and what does not. They understand the market and are able to pull together all the elements into one great book. Much like a conductor conducts an orchestra. But, without all the instruments in the orchestra you cannot make music.

9. Do you advise against self-publishing a book, and why?

Yes I do. I think that a book published by a good traditional publisher tends to have more credibility than a self-published book. If a book has been published by a reputable publisher it means that it has been quality checked by a number of people and that the best possible product has gone to market. If you have the input of a publisher and access to their resources a good book can become a great book.

10. What additional support does an Oxford Publisher offer their authors, and why is this important?

Oxford Publishers deal with authors in a transparent, ethical way. They understand the value of building good long term relationships with their authors and will ensure that their authors are happy and are treated well.

11. What makes you proud to be a Publisher?

I am very proud of being able to contribute to education in South Africa. Excellent textbooks that clearly explain subject matter, that is relevant to students’ lives and careers and that assist lecturers in getting their message across make me very proud to be part of that process.

12. On a personal note, what is your favourite book?

That is almost impossible to answer! It is like asking a musician what his / her favourite song is. Or a chef’s favourite dish. But, if I absolutely have to choose I would go with Fierce invalids home from hot climates by Tom Robbins. I always enjoy his imaginative stories and unique sense of humour.

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